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25 February 2011 | Angeline Albert

Three former employees of engineering firm Mabey & Johnson (M&J) have been jailed for bribing the previous Iraqi government to guarantee a contract to supply bridges.

Former managing director Charles Forsyth, sales director David Mabey and sales manager Richard Gledhill were found guilty of making illegal payments to the previous Iraqi government during 2001 and 2002 in breach of United Nations sanctions.

Earlier this week London’s Southwark Crown Court heard how the company agreed to pay the Iraqi government 10 per cent of the value of a contract to supply 13 bridges.

Gledhill negotiated the contract - worth more than £3.5 million which was signed in 2001 - with an inflated price to include the 10 per cent bribe. He obtained approval from Forsyth and Mabey to make the payments via an agent into two Jordanian bank accounts for Saddam Hussein’s regime. At the time, it was an offence to make funds available to the Iraqi government without a licence from the UK government.

Forsyth was sentenced to 21 months in jail, disqualified from acting as a company director for five years and was ordered to pay court costs of £75,000. Mabey was jailed for eight months, disqualified from acting as a company director for two years and ordered to pay costs of £125,000. Gledhill received an eight-month jail sentence and suspended for two years. He pleaded guilty to sanctions offences and gave evidence for the Serious Fraud Office.

Iraq had been a market for M&J’s modular bridges until economic sanctions were imposed following the country’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The UN’s Oil-for-Food Programme allowed Iraq to export crude oil in exchange for authorised humanitarian goods. This enabled the firm to re-enter the Iraqi market because infrastructure goods were among the authorised products that could be imported.

When an independent UN inquiry published a report on manipulation of this scheme, the Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into M&J. In 2009 M&J was fined £2 million and paid £618,000 to the Iraq Reconstruction Fund after pleading guilty to breaching UN sanctions.

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